Dear MOby,

Does it make any sense at all to get a Polaris Slingshot for a first “motorcycle”? I’m not really sure how I’ll like being exposed to the elements all the time, but I like the idea and the “elements” aren’t usually that bad here in the Silicon Valley. I’d also love to use the HOV lane on my commute. Would a trike be any sort of introduction or good training for graduating to a “real” motorcycle later? I guess my biggest question concerns my hair: Do you have to wear a helmet in a Slingshot? I’d rather not, as I’d prefer to arrive at work looking as marvelous as I feel.

Jungle Jane in Palo Alto

The hard part of learning to ride a motorcycle, which isn’t all that hard, is learning to balance the thing when you’re barely moving – which is the biggest reason it’s best to learn on as light a bike as possible unless you’re a really strapping kind of a strong-legged person. Pretty much like an infant learning to walk, sometimes you just fall over for no real reason except that the ground’s a little uneven. It takes some people a day or three to get their “sea legs.” The Slingshot cannot help you with that.

All four Slingshot models use five-speed manual transmissions, though, so if you don’t already know how to use a clutch to shift gears, it could teach you that whole concept (also not brain surgery).

Whether you have to wear a helmet or not depends upon where you live. In California, the law seems pretty clear-cut that you will wear one. The California Highway has this to say:


A motorcycle is a motor vehicle that has a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground per California Vehicle Code (CVC) 400 (a) and whose motor displaces more than 150 cubic centimeters (150cc).

  • Two-wheeled motorcycles require an M-1 endorsement.
  • Three-wheeled motorcycles or motorcycles with an attached sidecar require only a Class C driver license per CVC 12804.9.
  • A Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet is required.

The good news is you can use the HOV lane, and you don’t need to jump through the hoops to get your M-1 (motorcycle) endorsement. The bad news, which isn’t bad, is yes, the law says you must wear a helmet. Not that that stopped our man Kevin Duke, who drove the latest 2018 Slingshot SLR occasionally helmetless in this recent review because someone told him helmets aren’t required in a three-wheeled car with seat belts.

Whatever the legalities are, judging from the height of the Slingshot’s windshield, you’ll be wanting eye protection anyway. Ever had a piece of gravel or something crack your windshield while you’re driving your car? You don’t want to catch a thing like that in the nostril, and you really don’t want to catch a lug nut in the forehead either, so a helmet really does makes sense even if you do have seat belts and roll bars. Besides, there are some really cool scooter helmets that will give the protection you need while opening up a whole new world of fashion. Get a size too big to keep your coif comfortable if you insist, (though our legal department would NEVER endorse this for a vehicle you’re not strapped into); inside a helmet is usually better for your hair than blowing in the breeze.

Something like this HCI 15 scooter helmet could work in a Slingshot, though there are tons of other scooter helmet options.

California and many other states classify the Slingshot as a motorcycle; quite a few others classify it an autocycle; all the legalities vary from state to state. Luckily, Polaris has a handy tool on its website to let you see your state’s requirements. None of them seem really onerous.

When you’re not commuting, you need to hop in that thing and head west to Alice’s Restaurant – 17288 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA 94062 – to hit some of the best motorcycle roads in the country. If you like driving around endless series of curves, and if you find yourself communing with the people hanging around Alice’s on any weekend morning, you might want to get a real motorcycle later. I think a Slingshot is a great way to test the waters (seeping into your crotch when you get caught in the rain). Good luck!

Send your moto-related questions to If we can’t answer them, we’ll at least do no harm in the time it takes to seek out a believable answer. And we’ll occasionally even admit we were wrong, even if we were right at the time. Depends on what the definition of “is” is.

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